Over the course of the last two years, the COVID-19 virus has transformed the way society functions and maintains itself. Its impact can be documented worldwide and is noticeable in many areas of life, ranging from education to hygiene standards. However, although undisputable, this impact remains largely under-studied, as the virus still remains a current problem and originated recently. This research plan explains the necessity for exploring the impact of the COVID-19 virus on U.S. pediatrics and suggests the outline for such a project.
Description of the Problem
COVID-19 affected the healthcare processes greatly, as the majority of medical facilities were rebranded into the COVID relief centers during the peak of the epidemics. This is especially true for the countries who were affected by the virus the most, with the United States being one of these. Furthermore, it is essential for the area specialists to account for complications that might arise in patients who have suffered from COVID. Namely, medical professionals are currently in the process of researching these complications and their effect on the consequent healthcare of the patients. Additionally, discussing the relationship between the epidemic and children’s healthcare is additionally difficult since the role of children in the transmission of the virus is one of a debate. Being one of the least vulnerable groups in terms of age and overall immunity to COVID, children are at the same time one of the groups with the biggest exposure. Their affiliation with schools and often lack of regard for safety measures make them one of the biggest transmission agents to date.
This research plan applies both of these areas of interest and concern to pediatrics specifically and further speculates on other factors of influence in relation to children’s healthcare. Furthermore, it attempts to comment on the implications these factors and processes have on the pediatrics industry in general, considering its transformed state in the pandemic aftermath. The problem in question is complex and requires attention from purely medical and sociological perspectives alike to account for the way structural inequalities affect the results of the research.
Demographics of the Target Population
For the purposes of this assignment, one is to focus on children between the ages of 3 and 17 as the target demographic. This is the age within which it is common and expected for patients to avail themselves of pediatric services. The study is to not make a distinction between the children that were or were not affected by the virus when selecting the participants, as both groups are eligible. However, it is important for the researcher to separate the participants into two subgroups on this basis since the potential complications are also to be studied. The additional attention within the COVID-positive subgroup is to be allocated towards children with underlying health conditions that might have evolved under the influence of the virus.
The study is concerned with the children resident in the U.S, regardless of their citizenship. If applicable, the researcher is to include the unregistered migrant children in the study with necessary ethical precautions. The current plan is to implement the relevant research on the national scale, if one may avail of the required resources. However, an alternative geographical scaling is required since national-level research would be very expensive to conduct due to the number of collaborations as well as data collection and processing costs.
Consecutively, alternative geographical locations for the research are to be selected with due attention to the availability of necessary facilities. To assess the impact of the virus on children’s healthcare with the most precision available, a researcher needs access to large amounts of relevant data. Hence it is most appropriate to pick a location that has a sufficient amount of large pediatric hospitals in it, as well as being highly populated in general. Some of America’s most populated states, namely California, Pennsylvania, Texas, and New York, would be the most appropriate for the needs of the project.
Statement of the need
When discussing the place of children as patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to balance the perception of their vulnerability within the healthcare system. Generally, children are considered to be in greater need of healthcare than most fully formed adults due to their internal systems still developing. Yet throughout the COVID-19 epidemic, children have demonstrated high levels of resistance to the virus and are generally considered to be the least affected. Multiple large-scale research projects have indicated that children, particularly those of 10 years old and younger, have significantly lower rates of infection if compared to other age groups. In the United States, however, between August 27 and September 10, the cases of the virus among children went up from 9.5% to 10%, forming a general summer trend (Lee & Raszka, 2021). Throughout these months, different regions experienced damaging outbreaks, arguably caused by a lack of attention to the safety measures and social distancing requirements in particular. However, it is important to specify that the increase was notified primarily among older children. This is significant considering older children were more vulnerable to the virus, to begin with, and were also more likely to socialize irresponsibly.
The role of children in the transmission of the disease is similarly difficult to research due to a large number of asymptomatic cases. Recently, the researchers found that 20% and 17% of households possessed the environment for child-to-adult and child-to-child transmissions, respectively, but the number of subjects was insufficient to design any definite statements. Despite children’s role as transmission agents, including through pediatric institutions, is worthy of attention, they are still less likely to transmit the virus than adults (Lee & Raszka, 2021). Although some researchers suggest that 10 to 19 years old children might be as likely as adults to transmit the infection to household contacts, none of their subsequent investigations of this topic has provided substantial supporting evidence.
Contradictory results and insufficient attention to underlying factors and inequalities in healthcare are evident from the research that has already been conducted. Thus, it is essential for more research on the place children have in transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the way they experience it when affected. It is also crucial to examine how both of these factors have shaped pediatrics in the United States. Studies in children are often limited by accompanying ethical complications, limited access to the participants, and tendencies of the researchers to lump all subjects under 18 into a monolith group. It is important to consider psychological and biological differences between different age subgroups of children, their belonging to socially marginalized groups, underlying health conditions, and many other factors (Lee & Raszka, 2021). This research plan aims to fully analyze the impact COVID-19 had on children’s health and healthcare, and such a study could be instrumental in dealing with the long-term consequences of the pandemic. It re-emphasizes the need for intersectionality in the studies on this topic, as historically, the U.S. healthcare system has been flawed in its approach to patients of non-white race or those of economically disadvantaged background. Overall, it covers both the individual consequences of the virus for U.S. children and the pandemic’s impact on the pediatrics sphere in the country in general.
Community partnerships in medical research projects tend to be put in place for researchers to better understand environmental, sociological, behavioral, and economic factors that impact public health. The partnerships ground the research projects ensuring they are applicable to everyday realities of the target population and do not concern strictly theoretical sphere unless intended so. It is often important to ensure several partnerships at once to avoid single-sourcing of a large-scale problem in need of more detailed analysis. Since this project aims to design a multi-layered analysis of COVID-19’s impact on children’s healthcare across different ethnic and economic groups of U.S. children, it is in need of multiple community partnerships.
Appropriate community research partnerships for the project include schools, community health centers, non-profit organizations aimed at marginalized and disadvantaged families, and local collaborative initiatives. The scale of necessary partnerships is unclear at the moment since it is expected to be influenced by the scale of the overall research. It is important, however, that the project acquires partnerships for any of its areas of interest. To specify, schools and community health centers might help in the acquisition of the information of healthcare in children with and without COVID on a more general scale. In contrast, targeted non-profits might aid in dealing with inequalities’ impact on the subject. Finally, partnerships with federal organizations from the healthcare sphere might facilitate the researcher’s access to the otherwise inaccessible databases and other necessary tools.
Goals and Objectives
The first goal of the research is to assess and analyze the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on U.S. children aged between 3 and 17 and their healthcare. The term impact it his aim is multidimensional and includes the study of the disease in target research demographic, their role in transmission, manifesting complications, and vaccine tolerance. Underlying health conditions and other factors of importance are to be accounted for to prevent the flawed result interpretation. The study aims to cover multiple ways of COVID-19 impacting children’s health in America to provide the most detailed possible picture of these phenomena. Within the broad research target demographic, children are to be further separated into the appropriate subgroups based on their relationship with the virus and social background in general. Steps include successful categorization in accordance with all the relevant factors, carrying out a comparative and individual analysis study and summarizing the outcomes accordingly.
The second goal of the research is to understand the underlying social patterns under the pandemic consequences children of different backgrounds are experiencing. The dark history of medical racism is likely to have affected the way different racial groups of children are tested for the virus and treated from it. It is also likely to have influenced the priority allocation in the distribution of available hospital beds and vaccination doses. Furthermore, it is necessary to identify potential discriminatory instances on the basis of social class. As American medical care is infamous for its inaccessible pricing, no research of the pandemic impact on an age group can be complete without additional attention to the research subjects from poorer backgrounds. Such analysis can be later considered during the social policy design or a non-profit initiative establishment. Steps include conducting a cross-sectional study to account for social inequalities.
The third goal of the research is to evaluate and examine the pediatrics sector state in the beginning aftermath of the pandemic. Have there been any serious and fundamental transformations in the ways pediatricians deal with children in their profession? Which changes might be attributed to the general post-COVID anxiety, and which are an indicator of the most recent medical evolution? It is necessary for a researcher to understand and assess the implications the relevant changes in procedures, sanitary measures, and data processing might have. The healthcare system is yet to experience the prolonged consequences and complications of the virus in the upcoming years. Therefore it is necessary to begin the necessary capacity improvements in preparation to ensure the high-quality service provisions to all who will require them in the future. Steps include conducting data analysis of the pre-COVID pediatrics and conducting a comparative analysis with the modern state.
Timeline and Work Plan
The project is to take approximately six months from the stage of research plan elaboration to the stage of data processing. Any additional time requirements to be specified and negotiated along the way. The current time estimation remains flexible as the research in children has historically struggled to find a necessary number of participants if severely limited by time. Nonetheless, it is important to proceed with the project as soon as possible since the recency of the COVID-19 epidemic would no doubt facilitate the research process. In contrast, if one was to display a lack of urgency in the matter, the available data might lose its relevancy, and the relationships between variables would be more difficult to discuss.
The current work plan follows the standard procedure of those from the field of medicine and medical sociology. First, the researchers are to establish partnerships with pediatric hospitals and secure access to the data on their patients. Second, they are to contact and recruit the participants and separate them into the groups of the virus survivors, transmission agents, and those unaffected by the pandemic in the most direct sense. The next step includes outlining and specifying if any of the members of the three aforementioned groups have underlying health conditions or belong to socially marginalized groups.
Afterward, the mix of quantitative and qualitative methods is to be implemented alongside the literature and report review. The designed surveys should account for different areas of effect the virus might have had on the children, be that medical, social, or otherwise. Surveys among the parents or caretakers of the children should also be conducted, as it is an arguably more ethical way of examining the in-household transmission cases. Finally, researchers should survey the pediatricians on the matters of the most frequent complaints and procedures pre- and post-COVID.
Afterward, the standard data processing techniques should suffice when examining the responses and assuming the findings. It is important to account for potential ethical and legal difficulties in advance by ensuring the research’s strict accordance with existing ethical guidelines and data protection laws. The ethics of the research requires, perhaps, unusual levels of scrutiny since children are the primary subjects of the project. Then, if the research project is conducted without significant disruptions, scientists may contact relevant scientific magazines and attempt to publish it.
Lee, B., Raszka, W. COVID-19 in Children: Looking Forward, Not Back. Pediatrics January 2021, 147 (1). Web.